Archive for November, 2011

Change the World Wednesday – 30th Nov

This last week, I failed a bit and then I won.

Breakfast wouldn't be breakfast without marmalade

Saturday morning I decided that I should have that traditional British stalwart, marmalade, on toast to go with my coffee.I love marmalade and it’s so rare to find it in Brazil, and when you do, it’s expensive.

Now, I was blogging at the time. Lesson learned long ago, blogging and cooking aren’t good bed companions. But, I’m a man, do I learn? LOL not on your life.

Slabs of Charcoal

The result was that I had two slabs of charcoal. Now, I thought, what can I use two slabs of charcoal for. Surprisingly, I didn’t have any immediate use for two fresh slabs of charcoal, and in hindsight, I couldn’t ever remembered having needed two slabs of charcoal before.

But then I didn’t waste them. On to the compost heap. Now most people would throw them in the trash, that would be a waste. Read my Monday Moan if you want a story on compost and my free tomatoes.

The week didn’t end there. Sunday I made a fresh thermos of coffee, wonderful black Brazilian coffee. I am usually pretty good at making coffee; the recipe is simple and hard to fail.

I failed!

I had made crap coffee, I’ve done it before, rarely, but even a chef can manage occasionally. Sometimes I really surpass myself. I don’t know what I did, probably miscounted the spoonfuls of coffee, four instead of five. But did I throw it out? No way, throw away a whole days coffee ration just because it’s crap. I drank it…  all.

Even if I had done this in the restaurant, it wouldn’t have been suitable for diners, the staff would have got it. Waste not, want not. Oh, they would have bitched, but I would simply remind them that it was free, if they want good coffee go out front and pay for it.

This week’s Change the World Wednesday challenge:

Energy Challenge, Part 2: Throughout the month of December, please take another reading and report back on your efforts. We’d like to know what worked, what didn’t, and any lessons learned. This will be an information sharing challenge and hopefully we’ll discover more effective ways to minimize our energy consumption.

Well, I did this one, just out of interest’s sake, I was able to do it over three months because the power bill arrived the day of the challenge and I started with the reading of the previous power bill.

My type of power metre

Jul/Aug:    17002     132kw

Aug/Sep:   17128    126kw

Sep/Oct:     17267    139kw

Oct/Nov:    17395    128kw

So my power consumption is pretty stable, the reason for the increase in the Sep/Oct reading was that I had fewer lessons, so the computer was on for more time, also the months with 130+ I had the kids to stay more than one weekend, so there was more TV and more fridge openings.

So lessons learnt:

Don’t have kids! They’re expensive.



Monday Moaning

I’m having a go at waste.

Yup kitchen trash is being wasted, good compostable material is being thrown into rubbish/trash cans all over the world.

Gourmet Banquet for Worms

Nearly everything you throw out from the kitchen, with the exception of plastic and specially treated cardboard from some containers can be composted.

My Tomato Treasure

I love composting, all the soil in my planters is made from composted material added to sand and some poor earth that I have found. The result is that I have veges and stuff growing in my concrete backyard.

I have just finished a month of free tomatoes at a time that the price of tomatoes was prohibitive for most. Here in Brazil a good price for tomatoes is about R$1.20 per kilo (2.204lbs). A real (R$) is about US$1 = R$1.80 at the moment). They have been over R$3/kg, more than double… and I haven’t paid a cent.

The photo was taken a month ago, the plant grew higher and now is a lot deader, ready to be returned to the compost heap; that’s where she came from as a self-sown tomato from kitchen scraps.

This morning I found a great post leading to another great post. Thanks for the lead Ecogrrl. The first post: 163 Things You Can Compost leads to an even better post Compost Happens! Both are great reading.

So, this Monday, don’t moan, read…

Broads are home to rare plants and animals

The swallowtail butterfly - the UK's largest native butterfly - is only found in three parts of the country

A quarter of the UK’s rarest plants and animals are found in the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads, according to a survey.

The University of East Anglia (UEA) researchers believe it is the highest concentration of such species found in one area, including some that do not appear anywhere else in Britain.

But they also identified more than 60 species now considered extinct.

The findings will be used to help protect wetland habitats that could be vulnerable to future climate changes.

Andrea Kelly, an ecologist with the Broads Authority which manages the wetlands and commissioned the study, said even the experts were surprised at the diversity they found.

“We’ve always known that the Broads is an absolute wildlife hotspot but we were blown away by the amount of species.

“We’ve got over 11,000 species in the Broads and so many of those, over 1,500, are rare – and many of those, if the Broads didn’t exist, wouldn’t be here.

Source: BBC News Read more

The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads is Britain's largest protected wetland and third largest inland waterway, with the status of a national park


Saturday Satire

Change the World Wednesday – 23rd Nov

Emerson & Erick flying a kite in the street

After a heavy tropical rainstorm overnight which I was afraid would threaten the peace and harmony, not to mention the power, here we are. The power cut never happened.

I mentioned last week about the ‘amendoeira’ tree in our front yard shading the house. In the photo of Emerson & Erick (my stepsons) you can see that the whole front of the house was in the shade afforded by that tree on a sunny day.

This weeks Change the World Wednesday challenge:

This week make a conscious effort to waste no food. If you need some ideas on how to accomplish this, please read the article referenced in the previous paragraph.
Or …
If you never, ever waste even a morsel of food … WOW … you are a hero. Pat yourself on the back and then sit back and relax in the knowledge that you are doing a great thing for the earth!

I would early love to say that I can sit back and relax, but I can’t.

I am very conscious of food waste at home. This comes from having a very wasteful wife many years ago. I am by nature frugal and I don’t like waste. My ex would hop across to the supermarket and buy silverbeet for a meal, when we had fabulous silverbeet in the garden; that used to bug the shit out of me.

The yield of a side of hogget

Veges & Vegans should avert their eyes and jump to the next paragraph.

I also used to buy a whole side of hogget (I don’t think Americans have this, it’s the stage between lamb and mutton) and butcher it in the kitchen, making packs of chops, the leg, stripping the fat off the flank for stewing and bone out the shoulder and stuff it for roasting. Then into the freezer rather than buy individual cuts of meat from the butcher which were more expensive.

I have also suffered some financially lean times during my life where frugality was essential; most of us have. I still have this tendency. I hate waste, but I’m not perfect, there are the odd times when a part cabbage ends up on the compost heap (I bought a small half and then only used a quarter) like last week. Then there are times when I cook too much, usually it goes into the fridge or freezer for left-overs, but sometimes I dally too long and it has to go. It’s difficult to cater for a household of one. I even think twice before I scrape the half eaten fritter off my plate (last weekend), I even cringe a little.

As I am not catering for Christmas this year… again, there won’t be any excessive waste. But I can’t say that I don’t have any.

So I guess I am part way between the two parts of the challenge. While I can’t relax, I don’t chuck much; I still remain vigilant.


I have added ginger to my garden. If you have a little space, it’s so easy to grow.



Here today, Maybe gone tomorrow

The irony of discovery and progress.

Dutch botanists have made a remarkable discovery. The discovery was made possible by the logging industry on the island of New Britain near Papua New Guinea; the irony is that the very industry that created the opportunity for the discovery, may well be the author of its demise:

Botanists discover ‘remarkable’ night-flowering orchid

The Bulbophyllum nocturnum is the first orchid species, out of about 25,000, to only flower at night

A night-flowering orchid, the first of its kind known to science, has been described by a team of botanists.

Experts say the “remarkable” species is the only orchid known to consistently flower at night, but why it has adopted this behaviour remains a mystery.

The plant was discovered by a Dutch researcher during an expedition to New Britain, an island near Papua New Guinea.

The findings appear in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society.

“It was so unexpected because there are so many species of orchids and not one was known [to flower] at night only,” said co-author Andre Schuiteman, senior researcher and an orchid expert at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

“It was quite remarkable to find one, after so many years of orchid research, that is night-flowering,” he told BBC News.

Papua New Guinea

The specimen was discovered by co-author Ed de Vogel during a field trip in a region of lowland rainforest on the South-East Asian island.

One-night stand

Its unique flowering behaviour only came to light after the specimen was taken back to the Netherlands.

Dr de Vogel took the plant home in an attempt to understand why its buds appeared to wither when they reached a size that would normally produce 2cm flowers.

To his surprise, he observed the flowers open a few hours after dusk and remain open until a few hours after sunrise.

The flowers opened for one night only, explaining why the buds appeared to be preparing to open one day, yet be withered the next day.

The specimen has been identified as belonging to the Bulbophyllum genus, which – with about 2,000 species – is the largest group in the orchid family.

While there are a number of orchids that do attract night-time pollinators, B. nocturnum is the first known species that exclusively flowers at night.

Double-edged sword’

Mr Schuiteman said the exact reason why B. nocturnum only flowered at night would remain a mystery until further field studies had been completed.

New Britain is the largest island in the Bismarck Archipelago (named after Otto von Bismarck) of Papua New Guinea

However, time may be against them as the location in western New Britain where the original specimen was found lay within a logging area.

“It was previously inaccessible but now the area has been opened by logging,” Mr Schuiteman said, adding that was an area that needed to be explored because there were probably many more species waiting to be described.

He said the logging activity was a double-edged sword because Papua New Guinea’s government had granted logging licences in the area meant that it created roads that had allowed the plant hunters to carry out their exploration, yet it was an activity that could threaten the long-term survival of the species.

Source: BBC News Read more

Monday Moaning

Half Pint Cream Bottle

Milk, yuck!

When I was a kid millions of years ago (1950s) we used to get a cream bottle of milk 300ml or a half pint) every day. It was okay in the winter, but in the summer it was yucky and tepid, vomitingly tepid; some kids did actually chunder. Do you understand the concept of a chain reaction?

The milk was delivered to the school during the pre-dawn milk round, kids started school at 9am which meant the milk had like more than four hours without refrigeration because we used to get it about 10am playtime (recess).

The scheme was instigated in 1937 and ended in 1967.

I read this during the weekend on BBC News: “The government (British) has pledged to continue to provide free milk to all under-fives in the UK despite ordering a review of the scheme.”

The Brits still have it.

The milk we used to get was full cream milk, you had to shake the bottle to mix the layer of cream, yes, you could see it. Thick rich yellow cream on the top of the milk.

Cream Separator

But today’s processing removes a lot of the butterfat. The modern stuff (whole milk) boasts only 3% Fat; like they are doing you a favour. Milk with 3% Fat is not whole milk. Whole milk should contain 3.5% – 5.3% butterfat.

I remember milking time, most of the milk went in the milk churn, some of the milk went into the separator to recover the cream, what was left was skim milk and skim milk went to the pigs, it was pig food (it still does, but the fat rich ones who need to lose weight).

Once milk has been through the separator it only has about 0.05% butterfat left, making it next to useless, except for the pigs. If you didn’t have pigs it went down the drain.

But today the industry has ‘Low Fat’ milk, etc; with varying degrees of butterfat and the corporations sell it at the same price as whole milk. They are ripping you off wholesale. Because they get the profit from the cream or butter, and they double their profit by selling pig food to people.

This has long been a beef for me. One because I hate the taste (or lack of it) in low fat milk; and, two, I object to be being taken for a fool.

The milk we used to get was pasteurised, that is it was heated to 68 degrees to kill the bacteria and cooled again. Today the milk is homogenised which means the butterfat is broken down to remain evenly mixed with the milk.

Milk today is not milk

The milk we get today in plastic bottles and cartons is not milk, be it organic or not, it is a white tasteless liquid that defies the definition of milk.

It is so far removed from being milk that users of the product description ‘milk’ should be prosecuted for making a false claim. But, of course, we know that will never happen.

Three years ago I lived in a semi-rural area and used to send the kids up to the ‘corale‘ (milking shed) each day to get a 2lt (3+ pints) bottle of milk straight from the cow. It was wonderful, it was like being transported back to my childhood; it made coffee all the more wicked for drinking. And, you’ve (younger generation) have never had cornflakes that tasted so yummy.

In the US (and, I suspect, in many other parts of the world) it is illegal for the farmers to sell their milk directly to the public. Not because it’s ‘unhealthy’, but because you’ll realise that you are being cheated and stop buying their product in favour of the real McCoy.

But, nobody cares. Nobody bleats about the fact that you’re being lied to and ripped off. You all just accept what the corporations dish out to you. This is why I support Occupy Wall Street, because it’s all about the little things that are being forced on us as well as the major financial crunches.

It all makes me wonder why the Brits want to keep the tradition of school milk.

Visible from Space

Giant tyre mound visible from space

Dumped tires are seen piled in a wooded area near Elloree, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

The sprawling pile of hundreds of thousands of tyres isn’t easy to spot from the ground, sitting in a rural South Carolina clearing accessible by only a circuitous dirt path that winds through thick patches of trees. No one knows how all those tyres got there, or when.

But, Calhoun County Council Chairman David Summers says of this giant rubber menace, “You can see it from space.”

Authorities have charged one person in connection with the mess of roughly 250,000 tyres, which covers more than 50 acres on satellite images. And now a Florida company is helping haul it all away.

Litter control officer Boyce Till said he contacted the local sheriff and state health department, which is investigating who had been dumping the tyres. But the worst possible penalty that could be imposed locally? A single US$475 (NZ$627) ticket for littering.

Records show the property is owned by Michael Keitt Jr of Far Rockaway, New York. A local officials said the man was one of several heirs to the property, all of whom live out of state.

As part of the state Department of Health and Environmental Control’s case, a state grand jury issued indictments against George Fontella Brown, 39, of Easley, on three charges of violating the state’s solid waste act, according to DHEC spokesman Adam Myrick. Those state charges carry much heftier possible penalties, including thousands of dollars in fines and up to a year in jail.

Myrick would not discuss details of the case against Brown, and a spokesman for state Attorney General Alan Wilson did not respond to messages.

Tyre dumping has historically been a problem in Calhoun County and other rural areas, said Summers, who recalled another giant tyre pile in the 1990s that would dwarf the current monstrosity.

Source: Stuff NZ Read more

Saturday Satire

Make you Fink on Friday

Nuclear energy isn’t safe – Chernobyl and more recently Japan’s Fukushima.

Fossil fuels aren’t safe – Exxon and more recently Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico.

In each and every case the companies and authorities involved have cut corners, ignored environmental regulations, trimmed safety guidelines, lied, downplayed the extent of the damage, hidden evidence and squirmed out of their responsibilities.


Brazil police probe Rio de Janeiro Chevron oil spill

Brazilian police are investigating an oil spill in an offshore field operated by the US company Chevron.

Chevron says 17 ships have been working to clear up the oil sheen

Ships are working to disperse the slick 120km (75 miles) off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state, and Chevron says it has plugged the oil well.

Brazil’s Energy Minister Edison Lobao has said the company will be “severely punished” if it is found to have failed in its environmental responsibilities.

In recent years Brazil has discovered huge oil reserves in the Atlantic.

The oil is leaking from a well in the Frade oil project, 370km (230 miles) off the Brazilian coast.

Chevron initially estimated that 400-650 barrels of oil had formed a sheen on the water after seeping from the seabed near the well.

But the international environmental group Skytruth said satellite images suggested the spill was many times bigger.

Source: BBC News Read more


Chevron says 17 ships, last night on the local news a flight over the disaster counted SIX!

Chevron say 400-650 barrels, last night on the news the estimate was close on 3,000 barrels from satellite evidence.

Fortunately, this oil spill is not heading landward, but that doesn’t mean to say that it is not affecting marine life in deeper waters.

Why must we wait for these disasters to bring the message to the world that tampering with nature is dangerous.

And why do we need all this fuel, so we can wage war (military is the biggest consumer of gasoline), so we can drive our SUVs to the supermarket, so that petroleum companies can make more profit, etc, etc….

There really isn’t any hope for humanity. We have consigned ourselves to extinction.

Oh, go ahead and laugh!

Laugh, when you are telling future generations who are dying off because of what we have done! Laugh, when another animal species becomes extinct tomorrow, because one day soon we will be the species becoming extinct.

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